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Octopath Traveler II Preview

Octopath Traveler II Screenshot 012

Octopath Traveler is probably best known for introducing us to the stunning HD-2D aesthetic. It was so popular that everyone begged for more, and in 2022 we saw multiple releases sporting the same look, with other developers even trying to imitate it. But, as much as I loved the look, that wasn’t really what compelled me about Octopath Traveler. Instead, it was the tightly constructed turn-based combat, the exploration, and the perfectly tuned job system. It wasn’t all new, but Team Asano boldly showed that “old” ideas can still feel new and familiar at the same time. 

In my early hours with Octopath Traveler II, though, I can’t say that anything really feels new this time around. It’s remarkably similar to the first game on basically every front, just with a few slight new wrinkles, some of which are more successful than others. Nonetheless, if you loved Octopath Traveler, you will almost certainly enjoy the opening hours of the sequel.

Hikari looking out from a bridge in Octopath Traveler II

The basic idea is essentially the same as the first, but it takes place in a new world, so you don’t need to play the first game if you’re a newcomer. You choose one of eight protagonists, each with a different job and a unique backstory. Then, you venture into the world to assemble the other seven members of the team and pursue their goals, too. 

While the premise hasn’t changed, and the eight starting jobs are the same as in the first game, too, the people you control are very different. The Warrior, Hikari, is a prince who needs to reclaim his kingdom from his brother. The Dancer, Agnea, just wants to be a star and put a smile on people’s faces. And the Scholar, Osvald, is falsely imprisoned for murdering his family and seeks revenge against the true culprit. I’m particularly taken with the Cleric Temenos’ story—he has a high position in the church, but he is both deeply sarcastic and a “doubter” of the faith. 

The eight opening chapters are again working within well-trodden JRPG tropes. Still, they’re well written and made me interested in what comes next. I found each story and set of characters a little more distinctive this time around, largely thanks to the more varied settings and dialects. No, no one is speaking in H’aanit’s broken Early Modern English. But the Merchant Partitio’s old-west setting has appropriate dialects, and Hikari’s imperial Chinese setting is incredibly vivid. The voice acting is improved this time around, too, which helps bring things to life effectively. Despite all the variety this time, though, I was slightly more intrigued by the early events of the original game, so I’m hoping things pick up a bit more after the opening chapters. 

Importantly, the developers have promised to fix one of the most common complaints about the story in Octopath Traveler: the lack of interaction between the characters and the weirdly disjointed stories. I haven’t gotten far enough to see how that fully shakes out in the sequel, but the team has added something small and surprisingly effective to help with this: voiced encouragement during battle. This might seem like an insignificant detail, but hearing Agnea cheer for Hikari makes you actually feel like you’re traveling with these people, and I’m excited to see where things go from there.

Flashy attack effects during a battle in Octopath Traveler II

Speaking of battle, this is maybe the area that is most similar to the original Octopath Traveler. It’s still turn based and very much driven by turn order, breaking enemies, hitting weaknesses, and saving attacks to unleash while the enemies are weakened. But there’s a good reason this hasn’t been tweaked all that much: the combat in Octopath Traveler was excellent. The only new thing so far is “Latent Powers,” a Limit Break-style system where you fill a gauge up every time you break an enemy or take damage. Once it fills up, you can deal a special attack or create an additional battle effect depending on the character. This is a nice change of pace: sometimes the characters felt a little interchangeable in the original game, but in II they have a personality of their own in battle, and I can see myself experimenting with my party much more the further along I get.

Outside of combat, the biggest adjustment is the new day/night cycle, which affects each character’s available Path Actions. Returning from the first game, Path Actions are skills you can use as you explore the world that allow you to obtain items, challenge people to battle, or question them for additional information. In II, characters have two Path Actions: one for the day and one for the night. Many of these actions have similar effects—for example, there are three different ways to get items from NPCs: you can steal from them (Yes, you can still steal from children. No, I still don’t feel bad about it.), you can ask nicely, or you can mug them. On paper, this sounds pretty cool, but in the early hours, I find this to be a little cumbersome. Often only one of the three methods will work, so I have to flip things around to figure out what works best. Whether this smooths out in the later chapters, I’ll have to wait and see, but at this point it feels bloated.

Castti looking off a bridge in Octopath Traveler II

If there’s anything that I am already confident about after playing through all eight initial chapters, it’s that the game looks so much better than the original. The HD-2D pixel art shines. They even take a page out of Triangle Strategy‘s book and use depth of field effectively by adjusting the camera, making the game feel more dynamic. Octopath Traveler II is a huge step up visually, and I can also say the same about the music so far. There are day and night themes for each area, and even this early on, I have a hard time picking my favorite version. And given the diverse settings, there’s even more musical variety, from jazz-inspired tracks in a city of nightclubs to more Asian-influenced music. What else is there to say? I didn’t even need to hear all the music before I pre-ordered my copy of the soundtrack.

The gist I get from these opening eight chapters is that Octopath Traveler II is more of the same. But I still have at least 45 hours left to go. I have optional caves to explore, side quests to complete, secondary and secret jobs to unlock, and all eight stories to see through to their completion. I don’t know where it will go or how much it will experiment. But here’s what I do know: if you loved the first Octopath Traveler, I think you’ll love this one, too. If you didn’t? Well, we’ll have to see if they do enough to differentiate II from its predecessor. But I’m certainly excited to find out.

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Zach Wilkerson

Zach Wilkerson

After avidly following RPGFan for years, Zach joined as a Reviews Editor in 2018, and somehow finds himself helping manage the Features department now. When he's not educating the youth of America, he can often be heard loudly clamoring for Lunar 3 and Suikoden VI.

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